Don’t Hate Your Haters, Leverage Them To Your Advantage

Greg Satell
6 min readJul 30, 2022
Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

What can be hardest about change, especially when we feel passionately about it, is that at some point, we need to accept that others will not embrace it. Not every change is for everybody. Some will have to pursue a different journey, one to which they can devote their own passions and seek out their own truths.

Yet there’s something about human nature that makes us want to convince those who vehemently oppose our idea. That’s almost always a mistake. Often, the reason for their opposition has less to do with any rational argument than their identity and sense of self. For whatever reason, it offends their dignity.

Still, we can learn to love our haters, because they can often help us find the way forward. All too often, we end up preaching to the choir instead of venturing out of the church and mixing with the heathens. That’s how change efforts fail. On the other hand, if we can learn to use their tactics and rhetoric to our own advantage, we have a powerful weapon for change.

“Separate But Equal” As A Force for Justice

In 1896, the Supreme Court case of Plessy vs. Ferguson codified the doctrine of separate but equal into constitutional law, which allowed states to discriminate against black Americans. Many saw it as fundamentally unjust and argued passionately against it. But a brilliant lawyer named Charles Hamilton Houston saw it as an opportunity to use his opponent’s evil idea for good.

The principle of “separate but equal” was designed to prevent blacks from benefiting from common resources, such as a water fountain or a grade school. However, when applied to rare resources, such as a graduate school, its logic began to unravel. When a man named Lloyd Gaines was refused admission to the University of Missouri law school because he was black, Houston brought suit.

But he didn’t argue against “separate but equal.” In fact, he argued for it. Clearly if the State of Missouri was going to refuse Gaines admission, there had to be a separate but equal facility. Yet there was only one law school in the state and it would be out of the question for the state to build an entire law school just to satisfy the doctrine. The Supreme Court ruled in Gaines’ favor and he was…

Greg Satell

Co-Founder: ChangeOS | Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Wharton Lecturer,@HBR Contributor, - Learn more at